Institutional design for a post-liberal order: why some international organizations live longer than others

Maria Debre*, Hylke Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Many international organizations (IOs) are currently under pressure and the demise of the liberal international order is the talk of town. We theorize that institutional characteristics help to explain why some IOs survive external pressures where others fail. We test this argument through a survival analysis of 150 IOs (1815–2014). We find that the only significant variable explaining the death of IOs is the size of the secretariat: IOs with large bureaucracies are good at coping with external pressures. In addition, IOs with diverging preferences among members and those that are less institutionalized are more likely to be replaced with successor organizations. We find that institutional flexibility included in the treaties does not have an effect on survival. This is surprising because the purpose of flexibility clauses is precisely to deal with external shocks. Finally, we also find that systemic and domestic factors do not explain IO failure. In conclusion, we should not write off the liberal international order all too quickly: large IOs with significant bureaucratic resources are here to stay.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1354066120962183
Pages (from-to)311-339
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021


  • International Organizations
  • Institutional Design
  • Failure
  • Survival
  • Life Cycle


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